How Can We Recycle Cardboard?

Cardboard comes as the packaging and shipment container from almost all the goods we buy. Your food and all other home and personal products, (unless bout locally or directly) utilizes cardboard to help get the product to you.

At this time, cardboard is considered one of the biggest singular components of total municipal solid waste, in the entire world. But the good news is that it can be recycled easily, and there is a ready market for it.

The US throws out around 30 million tons of cardboard each year, but luckily cardboard is easy to recycle. Unlike some materials (for example different types of plastic), cardboard is easily identifiable (we all know what it looks like). There’s a lot of it, and there’s a strong market for it. In fact, well over three quarters of waste cardboard gets recycled, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. And because cardboard is so bulky, recycling it saves significant waste disposal costs.

Cardboard is made from wood pulp. In the recycling process it’s first soaked in water to turn it into a pulpy mass of wood (cellulose) fibres. Any foreign objects like metal and plastic are removed, and it’s de-inked. The pulp is then pressed back into sheets and hey presto – more cardboard! The fibres get shorter each time they are pulped, so it does have a finite life before disintegrating – five times is the maximum.

A few simple guidelines will enable the cardboard you collect for recycling to be stored, collected and recycled efficiently. Cardboard is bulky so break boxes down flat. Remove any bits of plastic, metal or cellophane (don’t worry about staples). Finally try to keep it dry as wet cardboard may be rejected at the recycling plant.

How can it be used?

A typical use of recycled cardboard is for product packaging or boxes. Recycled cardboard can be used to make paper: specialty paper, napkins, paper towels, writing and print paper. More novel uses are for furniture and even coffins.

Shredded cardboard is also used for animal bedding and home insulation.

You can use it in the home. If you have a compost bin put uncoated cardboard in to your compost pile. Soak it in water, or shred it first.

Cardboard is also a good component to use in the developing area of waste to energy. Unlike other waste, cardboard, doesn’t release toxics into the air when burned, it gives off twice as much heat per pound of waste, and burns completely, only leaving ash. -MARK LEE

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